One of my favourite things to do during my week (or many times during the week depending on who you ask!) is to go down into town and visit a coffee shop – either to have a catch up with my friends or to just spend a bit of ‘me time’ having some nice food, a coffee and reading a good book!
I’m a regular in my local Costa Coffee, but I’ve often felt the need in these times where the High Streets are becoming empty and multi million pound franchises are ruling the roost, to spend more of this time trying smaller local independent stores. As a wheelchair user, it can be pretty difficult to access a lot of independent stores around Harrogate due to the fact that many of them are in smaller buildings (due to the high rents of retail stores in the area) and are often difficult to get inside (due to the old Victorian architecture and steps in and around the town centre).
However I was so excited to find out last year that one of my favourite local coffee shops Baltzersen’s was going to extend their store into the shop next door to where they are mainly based on Oxford Street in Harrogate.
Baltzersen’s is a lovely little cafe where they serve Scandinavian style food made with great quality produce from Yorkshire. It first opened in 2012 by owner Paul Rawlinson who, after being inspired by his Norwegian grandmother’s cooking, dreamt of setting up a Scandinavian style cafe after he’d finished his time as an officer in the army. Ever since its opening day, Baltzersen’s has gone from strength to strength, becoming one of the most popular independent cafes in Harrogate.
I’ve visited the main Baltzersen’s store a few times when I had gone to town in my manual wheelchair with my parents due to travelling in their car. My dad was able to (but with some difficulty) get me into the shop by tipping my wheelchair backwards up the 3-4 steps into the shop. As someone who likes to be as independent as possible this way of visiting places is really not ideal for me. I want to be able to get around places under my own steam and without having to ask family or carers to assist me.
Nevertheless, whenever I have needed help in both the main Baltzersen’s store and their new coffee shop, the staff have been more than happy to help and when I have been brave enough to ask for specific things that would make the experience easier due to my disability (e.g a mug with a bigger handle instead of the smaller standard coffee cups with the tiny handles so that I can drink my coffee a lot easier without worrying I will spill it) they have been amazing and offered to find a solution to my request. Great customer service, in my opinion, is one of the biggest things retail companies can provide to be more open and inclusive to disabled people and those who need extra support. If you are unable to make physical alterations to your store to make things more accessible for people with physical or sensory impairments and conditions, then a willingness to think outside the box and provide access to your services and products in other ways (e.g. online selling, delivery, bringing items outside to view) may go a long way to satisfy customers and in return increase your profit and positive reviews instead of just turning someone away because you ‘don’t have a ramp’.
Back to Baltzersen’s and their food is amazing! My personal favourite (as you can tell by the photo) is the waffles. You can choose from a variety of toppings and from 3-4pm on a weekday you can even get the waffles half price! They also bake all their pastries and cakes in store daily, some of them are traditionally Scandinavian like the Skolebrød (which is a sweet dough flavoured with cardamon and a custard centre), but they are all delicious. I love the cinnamon buns and the cheese swirls! The potato gravlaks is also amazing and my favourite treat if I want to spoil myself for lunch. It is a potato cake, served with fresh cured salmon, a poached duck egg and fresh dil dressing. Just thinking about it is making me want to eat it right now!
Baltzersen’s have also made great steps in encouraging customers to become more eco friendly and aware of the impact eating out can have on the environment. They sell reusable coffee cups instore and have stopped selling takeaway coffee cups to help reduce waste and plastic use. They also sell some lovely plants in their coffee shop and both stores allow customers to bring their pet dogs in too!
Keep up the great work Baltzersen’s! I will definitely be popping in again for another coffee and cinnamon bun soon!